The No. 25 Houston Cougars will look to move alone into first place in the American Athletic Conference on Sunday when they host the Wichita State Shockers. The Cougars are currently tied for first with Cincinnati at 8-2 in league play. Houston is 18-5 overall and has won six of its last seven games.
Wichita State is currently 17-5 overall on the season, but just 5-4 in league play. Gregg Marshall’s Shockers have lost four of their last six games overall and have found themselves firmly on the bubble.
Wichita State is led by a duo of sophomores Erik Stevenson (11.8 points, 4.5 rebounds) and Jamarius Burton (10.4 points, 3.5 rebounds). The Shockers are a well-balanced club, with seven players averaging at least 20 minutes per game.
Houston is currently securely in the NCAA Tournament field but needs some more quality victories to improve its seeding. The Cougars are led by the perimeter trio of Quentin Grimes (12.2 points, 3.8 rebounds), Nate Hinton (10.7 points, 9.4 rebounds) and Caleb Mills (13.1 points, 38 percent from three).
Houston is a 5.5-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 134.5.
On The Verge Of Elite
The Cougars are 10-2 straight up at home this season and a mediocre 6-6 against the spread. In their last 14 games, however, they are 10-4 against the spread. As a favorite, Houston is 17-3 on the season and has covered the spread in 13 of its 23 games.
The Cougars are a solid defensive team and have kept the total under in 12 of their 23 games this season, including seven of their last eight.
Shockers Badly Need A Win
The Shockers have gone from being one of the best teams in the American Athletic Conference to the middle of the pack in the last few weeks. If they want to be on the correct side of the bubble in five weeks, they are going to need wins like this one.
The good news? Wichita State is 5-3 in road/neutral-site games straight up this season. The Shockers are just 10-12 against the spread on the season and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games. The over has hit in 12 of their 22 games this season, including 11 of their last 16.
Who Gets The Win?
Recent weeks suggest that this game will be more one-sided than we may have predicted a few weeks ago. Both teams are extremely well-coached, but Marshall can only coach; he can’t make shots for his players. Houston is a plus defensive group, and the obvious pick here is Houston to cover at home.
The Cougars took care of the Shockers just a couple of weeks ago in Wichita by double digits, and it seems likely to happen again on their own court. Play the over and take Houston -5.5.